The Czech’s Crackdown on HIV-Positive Gay Men Is Counterproductive

A Czech health authority has launched a new investigation, claiming 30 gay men violated the law by having unprotected sex while HIV positive. Health and civil rights advocates counter that this crackdown is unsafe, irresponsible and could actually drive HIV rates higher.

Announced in late January, the Prague Public Health Authority investigation examines whether the 30 men violated Sections 152 and 153 of the Czech Criminal Code, which governs the spread of infectious diseases. A Supreme Court ruling previously indicated that these restrictions can be applied to cases where it is suspected a person living with HIV has knowingly engaged in unprotected (condom-less) sexual intercourse.

Opponents of the investigation are challenging the Authority on a number of fronts. First, no one has actually complained about contracting HIV as a result of an encounter with the 30 individuals being investigated. Officials reportedly inferred that unprotected intercourse may have occurred based on people contracting other STIs like syphilis. The problem with this assumption is that while condoms do offer significant protection from STIs, they are not foolproof. In some cases, transmission of syphilis, gonorrhea and other infections can occur even with proper condom use.

What’s more, according to the Czech AIDS Society, an organization providing legal counsel to several of the men, the majority of the group pose no significant risk of infecting HIV-negative people. Most of the men either have an undetectable viral load, which generally means they can’t transmit the virus. Others have only had sex with other men who already have HIV. It is, therefore, difficult to understand why this criminal investigation began in the first place.

“There’s absolutely no evidence, there are no victims,” said Jakub Tomšej, a lawyer for the Czech AIDS Help Society, explained. “We believe the only consequence [of this kind of investigation] is that HIV-positive people who get another STI will simply avoid doctors.”

Some feel that the decision targets the gay community because none of the 30 men in question identify as heterosexual. However, in sharp rebuke of that accusation, Zdeňka Jágrová, the head of the public health department, stated: “This campaign [questioning] our practices is clearly intended to assert the alleged rights of a minority at the expense of the rights of the majority, i.e. in particular the right to health, irrespective of who and how threatens the health.”

Jágrová went on to say that, “no HIV-positive woman in Prague was diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease” during the investigation period. She further accused gay rights campaigners of using the investigation as a political tool to promote the funding of Truvada or PrEP–the drug has proved highly successful in stopping the transmission of HIV.

Jágrová offered a sex-negative response indicating that the situation was all about “relatively expensive drugs that promiscuous people would use before having unprotected sex.”

“A public health authority is obliged to protect the public health of the population and must act in the same manner as in case of other infectious diseases. We consider attempts to create a privileged group that would be excluded from generally defined responsibilities very dangerous,” Jágrová reportedly concluded.

This comes just as the Czech Republic reels from an HIV infection rate increase. Despite years of decreasing or stable HIV rates, there were 232 newly diagnosed cases of HIV in 2014, and that number went up another 15 percent in 2015. Over three-quarters of new infections were attributed to men who have sex with men.

The government appears to be doing all it can to limit the spread. Officials already proposed mandatory HIV testing for certain at risk populations including men who have sex with men. Campaigners argue that this hostile approach is tantamount to criminalization and far from an effective policy.

Even taking Jágrová at her word that the health authority isn’t interested in punishing gay people, actively pursuing people who have sex while HIV positive will not succeed in capping and reducing infection rates. 

The Czech Republic isn’t alone in this ineffective strategy. Many countries in Europe and several states in the United States have a history of overtly penalizing people who have sex while HIV positive–even if they at no time attempted to transmit the virus to an unknowing partner. 

When HIV positive people are criminalized in this way, it drives down the likelihood that others will get tested. And when people do not know their HIV status, they may still continue having unprotected sex, particularly if they remain symptom free. Furthermore, even when those afflicted with HIV do develop symptoms, they are less likely to seek treatment for fear of investigation.

At this time, the real motivation behind the investigation remains unclear. No matter if it represents an overzealous desire to stem HIV rates or something more discriminatory, such an approach is counterproductive–and, what’s worse, it could cost lives.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

39 comments

william M
william Miller2 years ago

thanks

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Vargas Cynthia M.

Jsem opravdu velmi šťastný za svého života; Jmenuji se Vargas Cynthia Maye, nikdy jsem si myslel, že budu žít na Zemi před rokem vyčerpá. Byl jsem trpí smrtelnou nemocí (HIV) za posledních 5 Nyní let; Strávil jsem spoustu peněz jít z jednoho místa do druhého, z kostelů do kostelů, nemocnic být můj každý den pobytu. Neustálé kontroly up byly mým koníčkem teprve minulý měsíc, jsem hledal přes internet, viděl jsem, jak svědectví o DR. Ben pomohlo někoho při léčbě jejího onemocnění HIV, rychle jsem se zkopírují jeho e-mail, který je (drbenharbalhome@gmail.com) .I s ním mluvila, mě požádal udělat nějaké určité věci, které jsem udělal, on mi řekl, že bude poskytovat bylinný ke mně, kter

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Robin S.
Robin S.2 years ago

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Marie W.
Marie W3 years ago

More wastes of time and money.

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Alexander Hay-Whitton

By the way, if it's a crackdown by only one Czech, as the title implies, it's not much of a problem.

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Sherry Kohn
Sherry Kohn3 years ago

Noted

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Margaret Goodman
Margaret Goodman3 years ago

I wonder if there are any nations that a do good job of detecting, treating, and preventing the spread of HIV and other dread diseases.

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Carole R.
Carole R3 years ago

Thanks for letting us know what's going on.

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Anne Moran
Anne M3 years ago

How are they going to prove that ?? - Unless someone who was ''with'' them, comes forth and says so... - Get tested and protect yourself from HIV,, and from nosey Govt.

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